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Pixetell, from Ontier Inc., is a new AASA Business Partner
Superintendent Chris Gaines
Chris Gaines is a stickler for precise communications. The superintendant of the Wright City, Mo., R-II School District also admires new technology that enhances the educational management process.
So when he downloaded a free 21-day trial version of a software product called Pixetell (www.pixetell.com), he was immediately intrigued by it. Pixetell enables the user to quickly add voice, screen recording and video to e-mail or electronic documents. The message can be sent by e-mail to as many recipients as desired, to be opened and reviewed at the recipient’s convenience. Messages can also be secured and sent to a limited audience.
Gaines was impressed by the clarity and consistency that the rich messaging tool gave to the first of his weekly messages to staff that he created with Pixetell.
“There’s a learning curve with it but there’s nothing difficult about it. It’s ridiculously easy,” Gaines says. “What we really like about Pixetell is that everyone gets the same message. You can’t misread tone as in e-mail. You can hear inflection. And the messages don’t get changed as they go from person to person.”
Communications software facilitates messages to employees
Gaines said he quickly became proficient using Pixetell and relies on it for communications with various audiences.
“First, we use Pixetell as a weekly communications tool with our employees. It’s quicker for me to put together a weekly message with a Pixetell than to put something in writing,” he said.
With a Pixetell message, employees at every facility hear the same information. Then, if follow-up is appropriate, Gaines can visit individual worksites and answer questions based on what employees have already reviewed in the Pixetell.
Gaines soon found additional applications for his Pixetells. “I used to send a weekly message to employees, another to the administration and another to the board. Now, I just send one Pixetell to all of them. If I want to customize a message to one of the groups, I can do that in a small Pixetell just for them,” he said. “The beauty of it is, the recipients can review the message whenever it’s convenient—even on weekends. It’s not like you need some fancy software on your computer.”
You can view one of his weekly messages here.
Pixetell and the budget process
Pixetell has played a significant role in the superintendent’s discussions of critical issues with key audiences. He created messages to explain the district’s budget reduction process, and also to deliver a detailed analysis of the State Report Card for the district.
“When you have an issue that might be considered controversial, like the budget reduction process, Pixetell allows us to get the same message to everyone. Instead of having four to six separate meetings where the message can get tweaked, now everyone is getting the same thing,” Gaines said. “This is a major reason why we have used Pixetell to communicate to our employees for our budget reduction process.”
Additionally, Gaines prepared for his Pixetell presentation and was able to deliver the information he wanted to communicate in an 18-minute video. “I can get the same message to all my employees in 18 minutes and go spend a little time in front of each school staff. This saves a lot of time and, more important, everyone is reviewing the exact same information.”
Pixetell clarified Superintendant’s State Report Card analysis
Similarly, Gaines was able to create a detailed and very descriptive analysis of the State Report Card, with PowerPoint-precision that included charts and graphs.
“In the past, all this communication was in writing. This year, we sent out a 20-minute Pixetell to explain the results to everyone,” he said. “We found that the Pixetell was far more effective than last year, when it was in writing. Now we have a narrated PowerPoint presentation through Pixetell, in which we go through each indicator and explain how we’re trending. It makes it easier for people to understand.”
Gaines has found Pixetell to be an effective communications tool for interfacing with contractors and vendors, and he plans to communicate via Pixetells with a series of community advisory teams that will begin to work with the schools in 2010. Further down the road, he intends to utilize the single-messaging power of the Pixetell to communicate key messages to parents of students.
Gaines advises fellow administrators not to be intimidated by the Pixetell software. “It really is simple to learn. Even my five-year-old son has made some basic Pixetells, the ‘Hi Grandma, hi Grampa’ type. We looked at other products, some at no cost, but we didn’t find any we liked as well or that were as easy to use. Within a week of finding it, we had sent our first test message to employees—and people were like, ‘That is cool!’”
Pixetell is available from Ontier Inc. through a monthly or annual subscription.